INTERVIEW WITH “TEEZDAD” – (Part 1 of 2)
- Question from TeezMom: When did it really sink in that your son’s journey was not going to be like other kiddos?
Answer from TeezDad: The baby had a low appetite, was slow in development and was not hitting the marks on the ever popular growth chart. That’s when I knew something was different; not normal according to westernized medical standards. I grew very concerned. My mind began to ponder: Would he be able to talk? Walk? Be self-sufficient? How will we spend the next 5-10 years? This was only the beginning. The hardest days were yet to come. I did not yet know how hard it would be to find real solutions.
2a. Q: How has your role in marriage shifted or changed over the years?
A: Before having our son, my wife and I hung out quite a bit. We would eat together, watching tv together, or go to movies. I would say I wasn’t really all that “present” with my wife. She’s my best friend, yet I didn’t have the ability to really listen to her heart when the chips were down. I was unable to sympathize, or “hold a place for her.” Watching her become emotional over something was like foreign territory for me. I didn’t even know what to do, or what to say in those situations. Marital counseling helped very little.
Right before our son was conceived, I took a new job which required business travel. This job agreed with me and I was able to contribute greatly to this company. When our son came on the scene with developmental issues, being away from home was tough. I assumed my wife was tough, and could handle caring for our son. With me being on the road and her suffering at home getting our son fed, and driving him around town to appointments with doctors and therapists; we were just trying to survive and maintain sanity.
It wasn’t until a couple years ago; I personally went into a season of “funk.” I turned into a workaholic and was unable to meet my wife’s emotional needs. I was unable to say “Honey, I sure appreciate you. You work so hard in getting what our son needs. You do a great job. Thank you.” She needed to hear that, but I was unable to give it to her. I even wrote down phrases to try and remind myself, and post them on my desk. Yet, I could not do this for her authentically. How is it that I cannot show appreciation to my wife, my best friend, for being a mother and taking care of my child?
In my mind, I was to be the “provider” and my wife would take care of our extra needs kid.
My wife was begging for me to be present, to be a team with her and help her in various ways. That sounded good, but hard for me to dive in and make it happen. This was a season of lows and we just were not connecting. Slowly, I began to make the turn.
2b. Q: What sparked the turn?
A: One of our consultants (Aaron Deland) pointed out that I was not really connecting with my son. I was basically “tolerating him.” I wasn’t really making an effort to get down to his level and be present with him. Apparently, I was waiting for him to catch up and someday we would have a conversation. With some intense discussion, it was pointed out that there was “Guy A” and “Guy B”. Guy A was the man who was present, in the moment and connecting with his child, wife or anyone else. Guy B was the man was thinking about other things instead of being present with the ones he loved. I was living life as Guy B. Becoming aware of this disconnect brought about change.
I began to help in preparing our son’s daily food. I had to learn how to serve her better, ask her if she needs anything, ask her how she is doing, and show her that I was hearing her, and that her words were important to me. We were better, but there was more ground to cover, and it took practice.
Recently while talking about housework, I offered to take responsibility. I felt I could do my job and then do the chores, I could wash dishes better and fold clothes faster. I took on the challenge to do these tasks myself. This pressed me to “dive in” and do the things my wife needed done. In the past, I had pitched in to help, but my wife carried responsibility. Now, we reversed roles. This made her very happy. I was happy to make her happy. This allowed her to focus on our son’s needs and education. We are accomplishing a wealth of great things. Thanks to my wife, our son is now reading at grade level, and doing math higher than grade level. I enjoy her company and hearing her talk. We are more of a team. It is still a struggle for me not to check out, or come up with preconceived ideas in my head.
Guys, they want to be heard. They want to see in your eyes, that you understand and value what they are saying. At times, they don’t want answers from you. They just want to talk it out. That is what I mean when I say “Hold a space for her.” Say things like “Wow, that must have been hard” or “Wow, I totally get that!”